CHENNAI: Reputed players in India are not known for organising tournaments. Dibyendu Barua is an exception. India's second Grandmaster after Viswanathan Anand is in charge of an international chess event featuring 27 GMs and players from 13 countries, which started in Kolkata on Monday. Former World Championship challenger Nigel Short is the big draw.
Tournaments with so many GMs and over 200 players are rare in India. There used to be the Goodricke Open (Kolkata Open later), which has stopped due to financial problems. Held earlier in 2013 and 2015, Barua’s event is an important one, considering that it is an opportunity for Indian aspirants to secure norms and improve ratings at home instead of travelling abroad to take part in such competitions. The bad news for them is that the ongoing one might be the last organised by Barua.
Staring at a shortfall following the late rejection of an appeal for government funds, he has decided that not undertaking such projects is better than “going around with a begging bowl”. Having started with a budget of around Rs 70 lakh, he says plans suffered after it was known shortly before the start that an expected sum of Rs 20 lakh was not arriving. “Not blaming anyone, but it’s not possible to continue worrying constantly about money. This is the last time I’m organising this,” Barua told Express from Kolkata on Tuesday. “We had LIC as the main sponsor and a few other partial sponsors. Through the federation, we had applied for a government grant of Rs 20 lakh allocated for holding international events. About two weeks ago, we heard it’s not coming.”
The former vice-president of the All India Chess Federation informed that this forced curtailments. The venue was shifted to a school which came free of cost and they also had to arrange cheaper hotels. Other than a total prize purse of Rs 15 lakh, expenses include appearance money and special accommodation with air fare for GMs, plus lodging for all. “There’s no going back on commitments. We’re not slashing prize money or requesting participants for a cut in appearance fee.
To manage all that, at the end of the day we literally have to go begging. People get frightened by the sight of us. I was conducting this because our region needed a tournament of such stature. But the trouble isn’t worth it,” said Barua, adding that he will continue to stage a junior event he has been organising for 13 years. There are 16 Indian GMs taking part in the nine-round event which gets over on May 22. Some of the prominent players are Abhijeet Gupta, Murali Karthikeyan, Arvindh Chithambaram, RR Laxman and the upcoming Nihal Sarin.
Thirty players including Short were sharing the lead after Round 2 with two points each. “I’ve been a player, administrator, coach. Being a tournament organiser is by far the toughest. As a player, you feel bad when you lose. The stress involved with this makes it difficult,” said Barua, adding that he has had enough.